Monday, February 28, 2011

Geneva Feb 27-28

With the Libya crisis unfolding, Clinton took a last minute trip to Geneva to address a session of the Human Rights Council. We left on Sunday, flew all day, and arrived at midnight.

The drama of Libya certainly seems far away from the placid streets of Geneva, and we spent most of the day holed up in Clinton's hotel where she met a series of European colleagues..the British, the German, the Turk etc. The Security Council has already voted on sanctions and the Human Rights Council has already called for Libya to be presumably what they were talking about were the operational details of how to press Gaddafi and his clan, particularly financially.

There is lots of talk, but thus far no action, on the idea of a "no fly zone" such as that imposed on northern Iraq when Saddam Hussein was attacking the Kurds. I think they are worried about another "you broke it, you own it" situation, especially when there is so little clarity about who or what might replace Gaddafi.

We are now at the Palais des Nations in Geneva -- the Human Rights Council is at one end (a big round room with a peculiar multi-colored papier mache roof..I wanted to get a picture but didn't have time). And now we are at the other end at the Conference on Disarmament, where Clinton is giving another speech that nobody is listening to.

She does a press conference before departure, and we are supposed to get back to DC around midnight. Tiring! But she must be even more tired, as is usually the case. Weird thing is I haven't eaten anything except for a croissant all day, in this city of good food! Grrr.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Munich Feb 5-6 2011

We left on Friday morning for this year's Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of securocrats who trade notes on what threatens their collective way of life.

These travel days are always a little weird -- leave the State Dept at 7 a.m., get on the plane, fly for 7 hours, then arrive and its 11:30 at night. It makes it a) very hard to go to bed and go to sleep and b) very hard to get up when you have to. The upside is staying at a VERY nice hotel, the Charles.

Whatever the Gulf Arabs may spend on their huge hotel palaces, it is hard to beat the quiet efficiency of a good German hotel. Comfortable bed, a "fire" on the bigscreen TV, heated floors in the bathroom, windows that open to overlook a park. Not bad!

We paid for it today tho. Clinton was up early and ended up walking over to the Security Conference site. It took about 15 minutes and was sort of funny to see the army of people trooping behind her plugging away at their blackberries..with security guys in headsets moving along the perimeter. She met Britain's Cameron halfway and they had sort of a hearty-for-the-cameras walk back to the conference center where they went into a bilateral meeting.

Egypt is obviously front and center on everybody's agenda here...but she had a few other things going on, including the finalization of the new U.S.-Russia START treaty with Russia's foreign minister. But most of the talk was about Egypt, and what happens next -- which still pretty unclear. Seems like Clinton was throwing her support behind Suleiman, the ex-spy chief and current VP who seems to the "establishment" choice to lead the transition. Not sure how well that will go over with the human rights types.

Otherwise we've been trapped in the hotel where the conference is taking place. There are so many different layers of security (perhaps predictably at a security conference) that it takes forever to get from a-to-b..often up and down these old staircases that have security stationed at every landing. I'd rather be out walking around Munich..but perhaps we'll get out tonight to a beer garden. I hope so....!